As the 17-year-old boy talks about his experiences in grade school, his eyes start to water. He wipes a tear off of his face as he shares stories of being bullied to Anders Ax, a student in Castleton State College’s Documentary Workshop class.
“I do feel somewhat invasive and I do feel somewhat uncomfortable, but the fact that I’m trying to tell a story and delicately bring to light an important issue kind of makes me feel empowered,” Ax said.
Ax is one of 15 students in professor Robert Gershon’s communication class who are taking action against bullying. The topic for the documentary was brought to them by professor Lillian Jackson’s Senior Social Work class. The two classes are working together to make a film they hope will create state laws against bullying. The final documentary will include facts, interviews and true stories of students who have experienced bullying first-hand.
“The thing that video does well is that we can bring important issues to people who would otherwise not have the chance to see,” Gershon said.
According to Gershon, bullying is a prominent problem and video is a powerful way to make people aware of what is going on in schools today. The documentary is designed for educational purposes and to change in the way bullying is handled, students said.
The education department has expressed interest in showing the documentary to future classes comprised of future teachers.
“The Vermont Department of Education has reconstituted a council this year on bullying. They have pretty strong policies for the school systems on harassment, which includes bullying, but the bullying one is very weak,” Jackson said.
In Vermont there are county laws against bullying, but there are no state laws, causing a lot of bullying issues to be brushed aside or not handled effectively, Jackson said.
The documentary, expected to be complete in December, will be shown to the council in hopes of creating a law that the entire state will have to abide by. According to Jackson, having a written law about what bullying is and how to deal with it will help schools know the course of action to take and to make it clear that it is a serious issue.
“I mean, who doesn’t know someone who’s been bullied?” said Tom Ferrullo, another documentary workshop student.